Artwork by Ashley Verse
So I don’t know if you’ve heard, but, the world is in a pandemic. Globally, we’re going through trying/unprecedented/unparalleled times (delete as you wish) – and it’s with a heavy heart that I reiterate to you, that it’s all a bit shit if we’re honest. We’ve been told to stay indoors as part of our new-normal, and as a result, people are finding new and creative ways to keep themselves entertained. Instagram Live is now a key and much-loved feature of the social media platform, people over the age of 15 are downloading TikTok and everyone’s making fried chicken/banana bread/drinking themselves into oblivion (again, delete as you wish).
Self-made entertainment is undoubtedly thriving but regular entertainment for the masses is in a strange limbo state. The film industry has come to a weird standstill, with release dates for major motion pictures having been pushed back, and the sports industry doesn’t know whether it’s coming or going, with talks of seasons being voided. However, the music industry, bar live events, remains steadfast, albeit solely digitally. There have been several highly anticipated releases in what I like to call quarantine season, and weirdly, I think it might be the perfect time for it. We didn’t ask for it, but we’ve actually got so much time. Having no social gatherings, no commutes to work for most, no link ups with friends – time is pretty much the only thing we have. There have been countless calls on social media for everyone to use this time to learn a new skill, refine a craft or start the business of their dreams – and if that’s a bit of you, then great. But if it’s not, I have a simple and digestible suggestion for your use of time: music.
The Weeknd released his album, ‘After Hours’, towards the latter end of March, when many countries were heading into a lockdown-style situation. I didn’t listen straight away – his early EPs had me hooked but I wasn’t the biggest fan of his transition to pop. However, the album seemed to pick up attention quickly, and after caving in, I was pleasantly surprised. The self-loathing villain of Abel’s mixtape days shines through, and it’s the first attempt at combining his older, dark R&B days with his new wave pop that I’m happy with. On first listen, it’s easy to get lost in this – nostalgia clouded me on tracks such as ‘Too Late’ and ‘Snowchild’ whilst more upbeat tracks such as ‘In Your Eyes’ provide me with assurance that maybe the pop version of The Weekndisn’t so bad. On second (and third and fourth) listen, the cull of songs was herded and my rating went from a 4-star project to a 3-star project. Time was spent listening to the songs again, taking in the production, the lyricism and more – and there was scope for my opinion to change.
The opposite happened with rap-duo Young T and Bugsey’s debut EP, ‘Plead The 5th’. Following their near-perfect run of singles, dating back as early as 2016, the pressure from fans was on the pairing from Nottingham to deliver. On initial listen, I wasn’t blown away, which left me quietly disappointed. I had high hopes for the project and didn’t feel as if the tracks, bar the singles we’d already heard, were amazing. Fast-forward a few days, and on second listen, I was able to appreciate what they’d done with the EP and upgrade my mental rating from 3-stars to 4. They’d mentioned on social media that some of the tracks that some of the tracks were recorded years ago which was sonically evident, and I appreciated the nod to the origins of their sound. Fast forward a couple of weeks, and ‘Stand Up Man’, a bouncy track without features, has been in my head for days on end.
In a time where streaming is king, and hot takes on social media are the first thing we often see when it comes to music releases, it’s almost a little bit refreshing to have what feels like unlimited time to take in music. I love the technology that allows us to enjoy platforms like Spotify, Apple Music and Tidal, and I love social media (sometimes) – but with music, it’s nice to be able to reclaim the time that these advances took away. Take the time to appreciate what artists have put together and allow yourself the scope for your opinion to change and develop. This seems to fly in direct contrast to how we’ve been consuming music lately, but my request isthat we embrace it.